Crafting a Lasting Referral Strategy
Recently, I was watching an episode of Medicare Cafe’s weekly live vlog where they suggested setting up professional partnerships to grow your book of business. The majority of their views come from the Medicare-specific lens, but the ideas were ones you can use regardless of what you sell or who you sell to. The whole idea centered on growing via referrals.
As you know, referrals can be the backbone of your insurance agency’s growth and prosperity.
For many, when you think of referrals, you think of your current clients sending you new clients (usually their friends and family). Although that is completely true, there is another form of referral that can be overlooked and that is referrals from partnerships.
Today, we’re going to discuss how to create and use your partnerships to grow your referral base and, ultimately, your book of business. It’s important to note, the partnerships we’ll discuss are mutually beneficial partnerships that do not involve monetary incentives.
How to Find Your Referral Partnerships
Professional partnerships for life and health insurance agents can mean a lot more than just partnering with a financial planner or P&C agent. Consider building your brand as the go-to person with ALL of the information.
Are they buying a new car? Help them by introducing them to your dealer and your P&C agent.
Are they a new client or new to the area? Help them by sharing your go-to pharmacist or doctor.
Are they an aging client or one with an aging parent looking for care? Help them find the right care center.
Building your brand on the basis of being there to help them through whatever life throws at them gives you a leg-up on your competition. Not only are you providing them with fantastic customer service and a health plan that’s serving them well, but you’re also providing recommendations to other professionals you know will serve them well, too.
Yes, this will take more of your time, but that time really helps to forge a relationship with them—one where they trust you and rely on you. Which makes them less likely to want to leave.
Creating Professional Partnerships
Creating professional partnerships happens in 3 steps:
- Finding the right people to partner with
- Laying out the expectations
- Actually using the partnership
Let’s tackle them in order.
Step 1: Finding the right people to partner with
Often, deciding who to partner with is determined by your own experience in the field. You can start small with this, partnering with only one or two different professionals. If you’re not really sure where to start, ask your clients. Ask them:
- Who they trust for XYZ service
- Who they’d suggest you partner with
- Types of services they’d find helpful
Just don’t forget to ask why. Why do they trust those professionals, why do they suggest those services, etc. The more you know, the better.
Use this information to then build out your potential partnership list. Determine where you want to start and how many. Start small to pilot the program and build from there.
Once you have your list together, set time aside to meet with those people. Not every partnership will work out, and that’s okay.
Set up a time to meet each individual to discuss what you’re thinking and how you want to proceed—we’ll discuss setting expectations in the next section. Some may want to commit to sending you one referral a month and others may not, so have options available for what your partnership could look like.
Mike from Medicare Cafe described different types of partnerships “Maybe it's as simple as a candy dish with your business cards at an office—gives you a purpose to go there every other week to refill the dish and start to get to know the regulars. Or if it's a give and take partnership, we share clients.”
Step 2: Laying out the expectations
Laying out expectations is critical to a successful partnership, but make sure your expectations are realistic.
Business.org outlines these 5 steps for successfully setting realistic expectations:
- Know your limits
- Don’t over-promise
- Explain potential obstacles
- Choose flexible deadlines
- Maintain open communication
Although these steps are geared towards setting expectations with clients, they work well for setting expectations with potential partners, too.
First, you need to know what you can contribute. If you’re only being asked for recommendations a couple of times a month, then don’t commit to sending 10+ referrals a month. This is an area you can start small again. If you send more than your commitment, then that’s fantastic!
After you’ve decided what you can commit to and have come to an agreement with your partner, then discuss the obstacles. Work together to determine how you will each proceed if the other doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain. After all, this partnership should benefit both of you.
This may be reflected in the deadlines you set, too. Again, start small. Maybe you’re looking at sharing 2 referrals a quarter or maybe 1 a month. That gives you space to breathe and build your partnership.
Remember, you may not only be partnering with just one person. If you’re partnering with 10 different professionals all with 2 referrals a quarter, that’s 20 referrals each quarter you can expect!
From there, continue communicating with one another.
Step 3: Actually using the partnership
Communication is essential to any successful partnership.
Once you have your partnership cemented and the expectations agreed upon, it’s time to start using your partnership. This is where communication really comes in.
Set up recurring meetings with one another to discuss your partnership, where you’re succeeding, and what you’re considering changing. This is an opportunity for you and your partner to determine if you’re both meeting the expectations and upholding your end of the deal. Maybe it needs to grow or maybe it needs a new look—that’s for you two to decide.
These might be monthly meetings, or quarterly, or every 6 months. Whatever schedule you choose, make sure it’s a priority.
Also remember, each partnership will look a little different. While you may be sending and receiving loads of referrals from your P&C agent or financial planner, your partnership with the care facility or physician may be working at a different pace.
Keep track of your partnerships and partner conversations by creating a new individual type in your agency management system, like AgencyBloc. This allows you to mark them as a partner and better track what you discussed, when you discussed it, and help you remember when it’s time to meet again.
In AgencyBloc, when you log this as an Activity, your notes are date- and time-stamped, so you can always keep track of what happened and when. Then, you can set up an Automated Workflow to send you a task and an email to alert you when it’s time to meet again.
Then, do your part.
Send referrals when you have them, go fill the candy dish every other week, or fulfill whatever commitment you’ve made to ensure the success of your new partnership. If everyone sticks to their commitment, this partnership can be a resource of continuous referrals to help you grow your business and expand your audience.
Continue Growing Your Book of Business
Grow your business from within by identifying the low-hanging fruit from your existing client base. With an agency management system like AgencyBloc, you can run a quick search for cross-sell opportunities and save it to your dashboard to work whenever you have time.